Great article, Eva. Thank you for sharing. I made a similar decision about 3 years ago at the age of 59. I had been the director of a team of about 50 iOS engineers for several years, and realized that I really missed the fun of programming. My programming skills needed some updating, so I couldn’t simply switch from senior manager to senior programmer. I knew this meant that I’d take a big hit to my salary.
So after talking things over with my supportive wife and best friend, we decided to take the huge salary decrease and go from the top of the career ladder back down to the bottom as a basic iOS engineer.
Now I look forward to work every day again, and have never regretted the decision. I’ve suffered all the things you describe above, but have been blessed to have supportive peers and management. Doing what you really love is much more important than doing what earns you a lot of money. Life is just too short.